By Robin Jovanovich
Christian Miller, Rye’s City Planner these last 17 years, is a man of vision and of patience. He knows how long it can take to implement the best of plans — the just finished downtown Rye streetscape improvement took over eight years, for example. There were a number of bumps along the way.
His energies are now focused on a new City of Rye Comprehensive Master Plan, which will replace the one completed in 1985. The venerable piece of work encouraged historic preservation, recommended a shuttle bus for seniors, proposed creating parking lots on Locust Avenue to “satisfy the need for additional parking,” and assumed that “extensive demolition and redevelopment will be unacceptable because of desired low density levels.”
Community involvement is an important component of any long-term plan, Miller emphasized. “It’s not like selling glasses for an eclipse, but I’m hoping to excite the community. This is their plan, and should reflect their values.”
An updated plan must consider trends and demographic needs. According to Miller, Rye has a declining Millennials’ population and a growing number of seniors who want to age-in-place. To attract and keep residents of all ages requires a nuanced plan.
“Planners used to be futurists,” remarked Miller, “but decades ago no one was including the presence of large SUVs in their plans” — much less the disappearance of pay phones and brick-and-mortar retail establishments.
Part of any new plan, said Miller, will be pedestrian safety improvements, enhanced recreation, sustainability, and additional parking for the growing number of part-time employees who work at Rye’s many restaurants, fitness centers, and service businesses.
“The biggest industry in Rye is home development,” said Miller, who believes that is one of the issues that will draw the community in most. “A master plan should be a guide to land use now and in the future.”
The City’s 12-member Master Plan steering committee, along with a consultant, will be interviewing every City staff member, and is hoping to hear from every corner of the community.
“People like to talk about their community, and this is a positive opportunity to talk about the future of our community,” said Miller.
The City will hold the first of three public workshops on the Master Plan September 26 at 7 p.m. at City Hall. Meanwhile, get involved by signing up at www.ryeplan.com.